Our journey continues as Moses are Aaron confront Pharaoh with this message from the Lord – “Let My People Go!”. (Just cannot help but picture Charlton Heston here!). 🙂

One question that inevitably comes up when reading through this passage of Moses and Pharaoh and the plagues is the numerous statements by God that HE hardened the heart of Pharaoh. This passage (like the one we discussed previous) – has been another source of debate regarding it’s meaning. As before, all I can do is offer my thoughts and allow you to seek out these things between yourself and the Holy Spirit.

First – notice that various verses in this section (Chapters 7-10) we are told that God was the One who hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he did not release the Israelites. (7:3; 10:1; 10:20) – yet at other times we are told that Pharaoh himself hardened his own heart (8:15; 8:32). So which is it? There appears to be a contradiction going on. Was it God who did the hardening or was it Pharaoh?

I would say that the answer is… YES! Both God and Pharaoh did the hardening. Scripture is correct on both accounts.

Remember, Pharaoh wasn’t simply a good guy who was making a bad decision. He had a history of abusing these people and hardening his heart towards them. (In fact – the Egyptians had been acting wickedly for 400 years!). It is apparent that Pharaoh had no mind to submit to the God of the Israelites and allow the people to go. So when the Scriptures say that he “hardened his heart and would not listen” (8:15) then that is exactly what he did. It was in line with what he had been doing for his whole life – in agreement with his fathers before him. Pharaoh was a very stubborn guy!

The other side of the coin is God’s involvement in this – and this is where people get in disagreement. The text also says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart as well (read also Rom 9:17-18). Once again – reviewing the history helps put this in context. Egypt has been enslaving God’s people for 400 years. God has heard their cry and is responding in deliverance. BUT – there are many facets going on here. Punishment for the wicked, an example to other nations, an example to the Isrealites, the perfect timing. All of these play into what God was doing.

I believe that on one hand God (knowing everything) already knew that Pharaoh would not submit to Moses’ request. (In fact – even Moses knew this and didn’t want to face his grandfather, Pharaoh). So God enacted His Rescue Operation in full mind that Pharaoh would resist to the point of death. On the other hand, there was righteous judgment to be dealt with. God needed to make an example of Pharaoh to what happens when someone messes with His people. He also needed to show the Israelites that He was their Defender (not themselves). So God hardened Pharaohs heart – until the full punishment of plagues was complete and the timing was in God’s time.

The main issue is that God was in charge here – not Pharaoh. In the first few plagues – Pharaohs magicians easily copied the result… but in the Plague of Gnats (Ex. 8:16-19) the Lord brought living things out of the dust (sound familiar – Adam?) and this sort of Life Power was too much for the magicians to replicate. Here God displayed His complete control over the Universe… right in the face of Pharaoh! In that same way – he controlled this entire scene with Pharaoh for a greater purpose then simply the deliverance of His people.

With all of that being said – I think it is important to note the heart behind all of this as well. God needed His people to trust Him in order to accomplish what was before them (and eventually usher in the birth of Jesus). In the same way, He asks us to trust Him as well. Ask yourself – do I consider God unfair by the way He dealt with Pharaoh? If that is the case then the real issue of discussion isn’t fairness – but trust.

God has the right and ability to do as He pleases. He is always good and always justified in His actions. Any misunderstanding I have when it comes to why He would do a certain thing in a certain way is all on me. It is my perspective that is limited – not His. God is never unfair… and so if He chooses to override the free will and harden the heart of Pharaoh to exact punishment for 400 years of wickedness – plus to make a point – then He is within His rights and power to do so.

… and I will still trust Him.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,